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Sunday Scripture: A new day dawns

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Dec. 1, 2010
By Terrance Callan 
First Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44
With this Sunday we begin the season of Advent, our time of preparation for Christmas. The readings for Advent speak about the coming of Christ. They recall the first coming of Jesus about 2000 years ago — His life, death and resurrection.  They remind us that Jesus has come into our lives today and always continues to come to us in new ways. And they remind us that we await a second coming of Jesus at which God’s salvation will be fully accomplished. The readings for the first Sunday of Advent focus mainly on this second coming.
The reading from the Gospel according to Matthew speaks of this most directly.  In the reading Jesus talks about the coming of the Son of Man, i.e., the second coming of Jesus himself. Jesus’ main point is that the Son of Man will come unexpectedly, taking most people by surprise. It will be like the flood in Noah’s time, or a burglary, totally unexpected. However, like Noah and his family, we followers of Jesus know that the Son of Man will come at some time, even though we do not know when. Therefore, we can and should be ready for it. We must constantly be ready for Jesus’ second coming.
The reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans makes a similar point. Paul warns the Romans that the second coming of Jesus is near at hand and they must be ready for it. Comparing the second coming of Jesus to the dawn of a new day, Paul says, “The night is advanced, the day is at hand.” In fact, the second coming of Jesus did not occur as soon as Paul thought it would. But since we do not know when it will be, it may now be as close for us as Paul thought it was for first-century Christians. Since we do not know when it will be, we must be ready at all times.
Paul describes how we should prepare for Jesus’ return. Since we know that the new day is about to dawn, we should live in the light of that day even before it appears, not doing the deeds of darkness, “not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and lust, not in rivalry and jealousy.” We should instead put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
The reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah provides a vision of the world as it will be after Jesus returns. In this vision, the mountain of the Lord’s house, i.e., the mountain on which the temple in Jerusalem was built, will become the highest mountain in the world. This will signify to all people that the God worshiped by the people of Israel is truly God, and all will come to worship God there.  They will say, “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in His paths.”
And when all people recognize God as God and offer God proper worship and honor, their relationships with each other will become peaceful. War will be no more. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” All will walk in the light of the new day that has dawned.
As we prepare to celebrate the first coming of Christ at Christmas, the readings for this Sunday turn our eyes to the second coming of Christ which we still await, and call upon us to live in the light of that hope.
Callan is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio. 
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